The turn of summer to fall always means a number of things. Even in these times where nothing seems normal, Fall means the return to classes, the ominous breeze foreshadowing winter, and pumpkin-flavored everything. But this fall, perhaps the thing that most people are excited to see is the return of the NFL. This NFL season promises to be one of the most interesting in recent memory with the lack of pre-season and for most NFL stadiums missing fans. Perhaps the division that will feel the effects most is the NFC North.
The NFC North has long been one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL. In the last three years, three different teams have taken the division crown. All four teams could make a push for the division if things fall the right way for them, but this division has two outside Super Bowl contenders, one team hoping to end their rebuild sooner rather than later, and one team that will live and die by what happens at the quarterback position.
- Green Bay Packers (2019 record 13-3)
This may be misleading. The Packers took a step back this offseason, not making any key free agent signings and drafting for the future rather than present need. The Packers will win this division if they can continue with last season’s form. The Packers aren’t a bad team but their biggest question marks are about the other teams in their division.
The Packers will need to be more willing to ride Aaron Rodgers than they were last season, but he will be far from the only weapon. AJ Dillon will add to the Packers red-zone offense, something that cost them in big games last season. This also comes with the expectation that Rodgers will remain healthy and Jordan Love won’t get put into the spotlight too early.
2. Minnesota Vikings (2019 record 10-6)
The Vikings took a step in the right direction last season. Kirk Cousins finally looked to be worth his contract in big games as the team once again topped the New Orleans Saints in a close playoff game before looking helpless against the 49ers. Then in the draft, they added a number of players who could make quick impacts on the field.
The downsides for the Vikings is that they lost plenty during the offseason. Starting with the loss of offensive coordinator, Kevin Stefanski, who left for a head coaching job with Cleveland. Stefanski was a big part of why the Vikings offense saw success last year. This offseason was possibly the worst offseason to lose a key coach due to shortened training camps and no preseason. The biggest question is how Dalvin Cook will look. Cook had a late-season injury that seemed to impact him in the postseason. If Cook can’t get back into form, this will be a long season for the Vikings.
3. Detroit Lions (2019 Record 3-12-1)
Football fans have spent plenty of time wondering when Matt Patricia will bring the Lions to relevance. The answer could be this season if all goes well in Detroit. Jeff Okudah is the shutdown corner that this team has long needed. Matt Stafford may need to lead this team to the playoffs if he wants to stay in Detroit for much longer, but there is reason to believe that is possible. The running game looked to take a turn early last season and added Adrian Peterson for what will likely be his last ride.
This Lions team will need to rely heavily on their new defensive acquisitions and hope that the offense can continue in the right direction, but there is hope for the struggling franchise. Patricia needs this season to workout or fans may call for heads to roll come next season.
4. Chicago Bears (2019 record 8-8)
The Bears have been all downhill since winning the division just 2 years ago. The defense can only do so much while the offense struggles to make anything happen. Bringing in Nick Foles was seen by many as a move that will push the Bears back to the promise they once had, but the fact is the locker room has been dealing with enough drama since the double doink. Bringing in yet another quarterback that is seen as second-tier at best may destroy what is left of Mitchell Trubisky’s confidence.
The defense is still the backbone of this team but last year, it seemed the league started to figure out how to beat them. The Bears draft was quietly disappointing. Without a first-round pick, the team also didn’t add players at positions of need in the second round, meaning that this team may struggle to plug the holes that emerged last season. This team could be drama-filled as the season goes on with two starting-ish caliber quarterbacks and a defensive scheme that the rest of the league may have already figured out.